At a press preview and hard-hat tour on Thursday morning, Queens Museum director Tom Finkelpearl announced an ambitious slate of programming for the museum’s inaugural year in its enlarged facility. The $68-million expansion, designed by the London-based firm Grimshaw Architects, includes the annexation of the remainder of The New York City Building, the museum’s shared home since 1972 (previously the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs). The Queens Museum will be closed over the summer, from June 2 through late September, during the project’s final stages.
Highlights of the 2013-14 schedule include a show of Andy Warhol’s 13 Most Wanted Men paintings, which coincides with the 50-year anniversary of Warhol’s related mural installation at the 1964 World’s Fair and the concomitant censorship brouhaha that surrounded its prompt removal. The show is being developed in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum and will debut in Queens in April 2014.
Finkelpearl reaffirmed on Thursday the museum’s commitment to a continued exploration of the political, artistic and social issues impacting the local community (Queens is the most ethnically diverse borough in New York City). In keeping with that pledge, several performance-related projects are planned, including Pedro Reyes’s mock United Nations “The People’s UN (pUN)” [October-December 2013]; “Peter Schumann: Black and White,” for which a 40-by-150-foot mural will be created live during viewing hours (October 2013-March 2014); and the first museum survey of the Los Angeles-based performance group Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), February-May 2014.
The Queens Museum’s newly annexed portion features modern, open and social spaces, including an area of wood floor for dancing and performances. It also has double-height ceilings and a prominent skylight, yielding manifold “aspirational” natural light, according to Finkelpearl. There are studios, classrooms, an enlarged bookstore and a glass-walled cafe directly facing the iconic Unisphere.
Beginning in October, visitors will be able to enter the museum directly from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, integrating the museum into the park via soaring 28-foot glass walls. The park is the city’s second-largest (after Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx) and is also home to Citi Field, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Wildlife Center, Meadow Lake, playgrounds and ball fields.
The rethinking of the museum’s exterior will result in radically increased visibility from the west, too. Previously, motorists on the Grand Central Parkway might not have known they were passing by the museum. Now they won’t be able to miss a new 27-by-200-foot glass wall with an embedded multi-colored lighting system that will eventually be a site for temporary artist commissions.